UBC German Studies Student Spotlight: Vivian Voong

By Melissa Phua

Our UBC German Studies Student Spotlights feature current students on their intellectual and professional journeys with German Studies. German Studies Program Assistant Melissa Phua interviewed Vivian Voong, a German Studies student, about her experiences in the program.

If you are interested in our German Studies program, please contact Dr. Ervin Malakaj, Director of Undergraduate Studies in German, for more information.

What inspired you to learn German?

I remember knowing very little about the language and taking GERM 100 out of curiosity one summer. I found the class to be so fun yet challenging at the same time! What motivated me to continue learning German was knowing that there was always something new for me to learn and improve upon.

Having lived in Vancouver all my life, learning about the various traditions of German-speaking countries really opened up my world. Learning German also helped me to get out of my comfort zone, and to think and communicate in a new manner.

You’re currently doing a study abroad program at Bauhaus University in Weimar. What are you studying there?

Currently, I am in the media department taking three courses: German, Film Analysis, and Writing Machines. My German class is structured similarly to the ones offered at UBC. “Film Analysis” is completely in German, and it feels immersive to hear the language being spoken outside of a language course setting. In “Writing Machines,” we are studying the history of keyboards and typewriters, and the goal is to build our very own writing machine.

What motivated you to apply for this study abroad program?

I think there is no better way to apply my knowledge than to actually visit Germany, and my instructors have always encouraged the students to explore the different study abroad programs offered by UBC.

I wanted to expand my interdisciplinary skills as a finance major and gain new perspectives by learning in a different environment, so I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me. There was also a scholarship available for this program, which eased the costs of living abroad.

How did you find the application process?

The process was very straightforward; I completed the application through UBC Go Global and wrote statements of motivation to both UBC and Bauhaus University. After being accepted, there was a surprising amount of paperwork to complete. Thankfully, both schools were helpful in the process.

What do you like about living in Weimar?

Weimar has a cozy, small-town vibe that feels straight out of a movie. It is filled with gorgeous cafes and museums, and you see familiar friendly faces everywhere you go. There is also a lot of history and architecture to be experienced here; I especially enjoyed learning about the Bauhaus Movement and its impact on modern design.

Did I mention that they also host an onion festival in October? They even nominate a yearly onion queen.

What do you find most interesting about the German language and culture?

I find it interesting that the beginning of a noun depends on both the gender and the role of the noun in the sentence. So ‘der Bus’ (the bus) can also be ‘den Bus’ or ‘dem Bus.’ Learning new vocabulary can feel like a guessing game at times, and it takes a lot of context to remember which forms to use.

In terms of culture, I find it very special that there are many large festivals held around the country, such as Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad in Germany?

There are many perks for students so be sure to make use of them! My student card allows me to travel to nearby cities, and access museums and theatres for free/at a reduced cost.